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Paulownia Archery Bows 

Make] Projects 

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build, hack, tweak, share, discover,- 

Paulownia Archery Bows 

Written By: Dan Albert 


Wooden slats (3) 

/ used Ikea's Lindmon blinds (product #10092570 at, which come complete 

with precisely located holes good for making all kinds of stuff. 


Nylon clotheslines works great. 

Sticks (1) 

for the arrows. Bamboo garden stakes work well 


When we took possession of our humble London home, I was shocked to find that all the 
window treatments had been removed. So we suffered the rat-in-a-maze Ikea gantlet to get a 
good price on new Venetian blinds. I hung the new blinds immediately but it took me months 
to get around to tailoring them by removing the extra slats. 

As soon as I did, I realized that I had a maker's trifecta win in my hands: easily worked 
hardwood, prefinished and free. 

First I built a new box for our kitchen plastic wrap, then my daughter wanted some doll 
furniture. Next was a laminated beam to repair our baby stroller, and a few slats to serve as 
drawer dividers for the clothes dresser I'd built ages ago but never quite finished. But the 

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Paulownia Archery Bows 

piece de resistance was a set of archery bows that I whipped up to the delight of the 
neighborhood kids. 

Wonder Wood 

It turns out that Ikea's Lindmon blinds (product #10092570 at are made from 
Paulownia elongata, an incredibly fast-growing hardwood that originates in southern China 
and Southeast Asia but has been bred for cultivation around the world, including in the 
somewhat colder climate of the southeastern United States (see ). 

Paulownia is made into everything from coffins to stringed instruments. The wood is fine- 
grained, virtually knot-free, and easily worked. It has the look and feel of balsa, only slightly 
heavier with about twice the strength and hardness. 

I could tell the wood was something special, but claims that paulownia is an environmentally 
friendly "wonder tree" made me skeptical, so I did some homework. I checked out the 
scientific literature and even paid a visit to Tokyo, where the Tanaka furniture company 
maintains the World Paulownia Museum adjacent to its production facilities — visit them 
online at p (and for an always amusing English translation use Google 

After researching, playing a paulownia guitar, and seeing evidence of the wood's fire 
resistance, I'm a believer. 

The tree is sustainable, reduces soil erosion, and grows up to a very marketable 12 meters 
high in just seven years. After harvest, new trees grow from the stumps. Planted alongside 
food crops, it boosts yields by creating a windbreak and an improved microclimate. It serves 
as a biomass fuel and has been shown to grow nicely in swine lagoons, where it provides 
waste remediation. It has a very high ignition point and is relatively rot-resistant. And 
apparently it was named for a Russian princess. 

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Paulownia Archery Bows 

Step 1 — Build the bow. 

• Cut a length of line about V longer than your slats. Tie a stopper knot at one end, then 
stack your slats and thread the line through 1 set of holes. Bend into a curve, thread 
through the other set of holes, tie off, and you're done. Add duct tape to show the kids 
where to hold the bow. The quick construction is key, because as soon as the first kid gets 
one, the others will be all over you. 

• For arrows, you can use any straight sticks; bamboo garden stakes work well. Cut a vee 
groove at one end to accept the bowstring. You would think that you'd need feathers to get 
the arrows to shoot well, but in fact the sticks fly nicely naked. 

• If they flew any straighter they'd be deadly, which isn't really the point. Similarly, you could 
add more slats to your bow for more force, but try not to start an arms race. 

This project first appeared in MAKE Volume 16 . page 169. 

This document was last generated on 201 2-1 0-30 06:37:24 PM. 

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